When people learn that I am vegan, many ask if my reason for being vegan has to do with health. For me, while the physical benefits of a vegan diet are incredibly compelling, my reasons for abstaining from animal products are really rooted in animal rights philosophy. Cupcakes, cookies, seitan picatta over mashed potatoes, and a host of other decadent things that are bad for me are all welcome at my table, and the fact that such dishes are all cholesterol-free and tend to be higher in fiber and nutrients just happens to be an added bonus. Compassion is the motivating force behind my choice, not calories.
That said, recently I have been very interested in being more healthy in my cooking. I have been eating most of my meals according to the guidelines set out in Dr. Fuhrman’s wonderful Eat to Live, which emphasizes nutrient density, so basically getting carbohydrates not from grain products but from salads, leafy greens, raw and cooked vegetables, and fruits, as well as privileging protein sources such as legumes and nuts rather than seitan, tofu, and meat analogues. Fats are eaten only in whole form, so avocados, whole olives, nuts, and flax seeds make up the bulk of that food group. I’ve been trying to avoid flour-based products and refined sugar, instead indulging my sweet tooth on things like dates and fresh fruit. The great site Fat Free Vegan has been helping me out with recipes such as Ful Nabed and pasta-free lasagna. One of the recipes following this post was also inspired by that site, to give credit where credit is due.
I’ve also been fascinated for a long time by raw food, and while I can’t see myself “going raw” as many vegans do, I enjoy the occasional foray into raw cuisine. So for my official Fourth of July Cookout Edition Blog I am posting two recipes, both (mostly) raw and (entirely)vegan and one is even Eat to Live approved!
Raw Fruit Pie
This pie is vegan, raw, totally free of refined sugar or any flour at all, and it is ridiculously delicious. It’s also very flexible, so you can use whatever fruit you have available though I dunno how well something like apples would work. I’d stick to stone fruit of any kind (peaches, plums, nectarines, cherries) or berries of any stripe, though raw strawberries tend to get watery so look out. Make the crust first and don’t bother washing out the blender when you make the filling. The crust is adapted from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook, the filling from the Berry Pie on Fat Free Vegan. You could use a graham cracker crust here, either home-made or store-bought, or a blind-baked store crust as if you were making key lime pie or something like that.
1 cup walnuts
1 cup pistachios
¾ cup dates
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbs. ground flax seeds
Grind up the walnuts, pistachios, cinnamon, and flax seeds in a food processor until they look like coarse meal, and then pit the dates and dump them in. Pulse until the dates are well chopped and the crust holds together when press. Press firmly into a pie plate (bottom and sides).
4-5 ripe nectarines, cut off the pit into small chunks
Juice from one lemon
To make the pie:
Place the chunks of fruit into the prepared pie crust, you want them to fill the pie plate fairly well. In your food processor, blend up the bananas, dates, and lemon juice until you get a custard-like substance that will look kind of brown and unappealing, but will taste tangy and sweet. Spread the custard over the fruit and then garnish with nuts and mint to spruce up the drabness if you like. Let it chill and then scoop out. The crust won’t hold together just like a regular pie crust but it will be redonkulously delicious however it looks.
Royal Mayan Pie
This recipe is based on one of the first vegan desserts I ever made. It is somehow associated with Woody Harrelson but I don’t know how or why. You could make this with the raw crust above and it would be rad but it’s just as good with a graham cracker crust. Make it for your friends who are squeamish about tofu chocolate pies, or just make it and watch Apocalypto or have an opening night party for 2012 or something. I like to decorate this pie by sprinkling cacao nibs around the edges and a nice little pile in the center but they are pretty fierce so if you’re not into bitter chocolate then maybe skip that.
2 cups avocado (I use a combination of haas and florida avocados but you can use whatever)
½ cup + 2 tablespoons maple syrup
1-2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (aged balsamic is best)
½ teaspoon shoyu
1 cup pure cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s special dark powder and it was awesome)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
Cacao nibs (optional)
To make the pie:
In a food processor, blend avocado, maple syrup, almond extract, balsamic, and shoyu, cinnamon, and cayenne until smooth and creamy and lump-free. Add cocoa powder by sifting the cocoa through a mesh strainer, and blend. Pour into a prepared crust– either the raw crust or a graham cracker crust works really well. Decorate with cacao nibs and chill.